August 27, birthday of Rebecca Clarke

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

The biography of Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) on Wikipedia made me wince and feel angry. Her father encouraged her to study music and she enrolled at the Royal Academy. When one of her teachers there proposed to her, the father withdrew her immediately from the school. Two years later she entered the Royal College of Music, where her composition professor encouraged her to switch from violin to viola. After complaining about her father’s extra-marital affairs, he turned her out of his house and cut off her funds. Luckily she had fallowed her professor’s advice and was able to support herself as a professional violist.

England didn’t seem ready for female composers in the early 20th century. As proof, she and a cellist gave a recital of new works by young composers. It included works by Anthony Trent as well as Clarke’s. While Trent’s works were well received, Clarke’s received little attention. The truth was that Clarke had submitted one her pieces under the pseudonym, “Anthony Trent.”

Later she entered a piece in a prestigious composition competition, where her piece tied one by Ernest Bloch. Judges awarded first prize to Bloch, and reporters:

“speculated that “Rebecca Clarke” was only a pseudonym for Bloch himself, or at least that it could not have been Clarke who wrote these pieces, as the idea that a woman could write such a work was socially inconceivable.”

She came to the US while on tour as a successful performer, but when WWII broke out, she couldn’t get a visa to return to the UK. She became a nanny in Connecticut and during the War composed a number of her most important works, like today’s, “Prelude.”

One day in Manhattan, she bumped into a fellow student from her days at the Royal College.  His name was James Frisking and he was one of the founding members of Julliard.  Both in their 50s, they married, and she lived until the ripe old age of 93.  Sadly, she suffered from depression and said she could not balance her personal life with the demands of being a composer, and only composed sporadically for the rest of her life.

Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale (1941)/b>


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

One Response to August 27, birthday of Rebecca Clarke

  1. kvennarad says:

    Seems a bit of a daft state of affairs to me – in Britain we had had generations of female writers and achievers in other artistic media to great acclaim by the time of Rebecca Clarke.

    Liked by 1 person

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